Over 30 productions, showcasing more than 200 artists in drama, physical theatre, poetry, hip hop, music theatre and opera, will fill the stages at the 2013 Zabalaza Theatre Festival, running over three weeks from Saturday, 2 to Saturday, 23 March at the Baxter Theatre Centre.

The festival will platform work by local theatre-maker’s, artists, groups and companies in the Western Cape with additional contributions from Johannesburg, Durban and Pretoria. Earlier in 2013, two productions were selected at the Eden Drama Festival, which was held in Riversdale.

Widely regarded as one of the premier development platforms in the country, the Zabalaza Theatre Festival has received great acclaim since it was launched at the Baxter in 2011. Since its inception the festival has grown exponentially and each year the organisers pay special attention to innovate and expand the programme.

To this end, 2013 promises a bumper line-up packed with not only theatre productions, but also incorporating hip hop, poetry, opera and musical theatre for the first time. Over the three weeks the Baxter’s Golden Arrow Studio, Masambe Theatre and Concert Hall will be abuzz with a wide variety of exciting choices for theatre-goers and audiences.

“We are very proud of the achievements of the Zabalaza team and the festival’s phenomenal growth in just three years,” says Baxter CEO and artistic director, Lara Foot. The festival is dedicated to the principles of development. We are committed to an integrated and holistic approach where mentoring, support, knowledge-sharing and active engagement with the communities are fundamental to its success. Our vision to grow the festival so that it becomes a big event where artists from all over can participate in – we have only just begun.”

This year there are 15 productions on the Main programme which will run over the first two weeks from 4 to 16 March, Mondays to Fridays, in the Baxter Golden Arrow Studio and Masambe Theatre at 10:00, 11:00, 12:15, 13:30: 19:00 and 20:00. The programme is made up of work by emerging theatre makers, theatre companies and professional actors and actresses who want to venture into the field of writing and directing.

The Fringe programme is made up of 13 productions which will run all day on Saturdays, 9 and 16 March, and caters for those groups who have members who are still at school and cannot make the week day performances.

The third week will be specifically-focused on poetry, hip hop, opera and music theatre. On Thursday, 21 March the Naked Slam Poetry line-up by poetry movement Lingua Franca, featuring all local poets, will take place in the Concert Hall at 18:30. The Words and Beats hip hop performances, presented by The Creative Database, will feature a host of well-known and popular artists from around Cape Town and will take place on Friday, 22 March at 18.30 in the Concert Hall.

For the opera programme titled Popera, Cape Town Opera has teamed up with Nyanga-based theatre group Siyaya to encourage the creation of new short music theatre works dealing with South African stories and heritage. This initiative has assembled two teams of first-time music theatre creators, with guidance from programme mentors Lara Foot and Neo Muyanga. Their new works will premiere at the 2013 Zabalaza Theatre Festival, as a double-bill of two thirty-minute pieces. The Legend of Nomkhubulwane, with music by Kaylee Esterhuizen and text by Mbali Vilakazi will be directed by Ntombi Makhutshi, while Bongani Magatyana stages Nkosazana, composed by Aphiwe Menziwe with a libretto by Thando Doni. This programme will take place on from Wednesday, 20 to Friday, 22 March at 12:00 and 16:00 in the Golden Arrow Studio.

Invited performers at the festival are Jori Snell (physical theatre) and Tebogo Munyai (contemporary dance theatre) and the 2012 Best of Zabalaza winner, Worst of Both Worlds.

The festival will end on a celebratory note culminating in the awards ceremony on Saturday, 23 March, recognising the talents and hard work of the participants over the bumper three weeks. Honours will be given in various categories which include best actor, actress, supporting actor, supporting actress, script, director and production amongst others.

Special guests and key note speakers at this year’s festival include the Western Cape minister of Cultural Affairs and Sport, Dr Ivan Meyer and theatre luminary, Dr John Kani.

“We are merely responding to the needs of community-based theatre-makers, writers, directors and actors,” explains Zabalaza artistic director, Thami Mbongo. “By introducing additional and new aspects each year we are able to ensure that the festival is always fresh, representative and exciting for participants and audiences. We are so looking forward to our third festival this year with three new genres, an extra week and an additional venue (Concert Hall).”

He continues, “A heartfelt thanks for the generous and on-going funding and support from the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport and Distell, as well as the City of Cape Town, Radio Zibonele, HCI Foundation, Golden Arrow Bus Services and Solms Delta, we are able to achieve our goal not only of creating a platform to showcase the work but also of developing sustainable relationships with the various groups throughout South Africa. Mentoring is imperative for our vision and I hope that we go from strength to strength with these incredible partnerships.”

Following the call for submissions which closed in October last year, nearly 250 groups were visited and auditioned over three months. The search was on to find work that would make it to the six hugely popular mini festivals which took place over three consecutive weekends in January. Held in Robertson, Kraaifontein, Khayelitsha and Delft, with two at the Zolani Centre in Nyanga East and playing with great success to packed auditoriums, the final selection was made to secure the 2013 festival line-up.

The independent panel of observers who make up the selection panel comprise well-known theatre personalities and award-winning actors Faniswa Yisa, Mbulelo Grootboom and Thando Doni.

The Zabalaza team is spearheaded by artistic director Thami Mgongo with co-ordinator Zoleka Helesi and they are assisted by Mandisi Sindo, Khayalethu Anthony and Mhimhi Mabona.

“The excitement, passion and commitment from the theatre-makers, groups, local organisers and municipalities in the different areas have been overwhelming and heart-warming,” says Sindo. “And the tremendous talent that we have come across through this process is most encouraging and serves as a reminder as to why the festival is necessary for development theatre in this province and the country.”

Over the past two weeks festival participants were taken through their paces in workshops which were given by experts in the fields of arts administration and budgeting, marketing and media, acting, physical theatre, directing, scriptwriting, funding and stage management.

Tickets for the 2013 Zabalaza Theatre Festival are reasonably-priced at R25 throughout. Booking is through Computicket on 0861 915 8000, online at www.computicket.co.za or at any Shoprite Checkers outlet. For discounted corporate, schools or block-bookings, charities or fundraisers, contact Sharon on 021 680 3962 and/or sharon.ward@uct.ac.za, or Carmen on 021 680 3993 and/or carmen.kearns@uct.ac.za.

For more information or further enquiries contact Zoleka Helesi at the Zabalaza office on 021 680 3980 or email her directly at zabalazafestival@gmail.com. For the full schedule, visit www.baxter.co.za. Alternatively, ‘Like’ the Facebook page for the Zabalaza Theatre Festival.

Source: Media Update